As the school year drew to a close, the rest of the art club members had already sorted out their belongings, except for the third-graders, who had bequeathed a sizable inheritance of materials to their younger colleagues. I sat alone in the studio, re-reading the passage from the book that Alice had sent me, asking me to illustrate it. This was her plan from the beginning, as soon as she found out that I was painting, she complained about it for so long, that as siblings we should work together, and I couldn't say no to her.
Alice and I talked a lot, about our father, our relationship, our responsibilities and the life that now awaited us. The closer we became, the more I realized what a false image she sometimes built. She wasn't always a cheerful, kind, energetic girl, but in fact, she harboured a lot of sadness and suffering.
I told her frankly that she didn't have to pretend to me, that as her brother, I would always listen to her and help her, even if she got into the worst of trouble. I will support her in her pursuit of every dream and goal.
"Don't make promises you might not keep," she laughed. "My greatest dream will never come true. "
Her words hurt me, I remember that she quickly changed the subject and tried to tell me another method by which I could fulfil my duties to my father. Honestly, I wasn't in the mood for it. I also noticed an even more disturbing detail. Maiko's words affected my friend, and he took it as a good omen, and the more he tried to get close to my sister, the more she moved away from him.
It begged me to use my skills and see if these two fit together, but the line that would connect them didn't exist. I quickly decided that I didn't like it at all. I didn't want to have any extra commitments, at least not ones I wouldn't choose. Alice, however, convinced me that our skills complemented each other perfectly, so I helped her.
I also had to finally ask a question that was nagging at me from the inside, to which I should have guessed the answer. I kept wondering what Konya Tatsuo had to do with all this.
"He's Her son," Alice replied, surprised by my question during one of our walks. "I thought it became obvious once you knew the truth."
Well, it wasn't like that for me, I thought, putting the drawing aside for a moment. I decided to straighten up and walk around a bit so as not to complain about sore muscles. After a few laps around the room, I stopped by the window and watched as spring slowly began to take over the world. The sun was already pleasantly warm, and I decided that on the way back I would buy ice cream.
Enjoying the warmth, I let my thoughts wander in my direction. How often in recent weeks they had rushed straight to Konya? Just like that, since those few interactions together, it has been silently creeping into my head. Not only that, but I've also noticed that I unconsciously tend to scan the hallway for him. I didn't want to do it, but the need to do so was stronger.
I tried to remember if I had ever seen him smile so that it would show in his eyes as well. However, I couldn't recover from any of these situations. Watching him sometimes stand in a group of his fans, I had the impression that he was lonely. I didn't immediately recognize the need to befriend him, but I had a strange feeling that I wanted to help him.
I sighed heavily and decided it was time to get back to work. As I sat back in my chair and was reaching for my headphones, the door opened. Of course, it had to be him.
"I didn't think I'd be so lucky," Konya announced with a smile and walked inside as if to his place.
I watched him with extra caution, since I knew who he was, according to Alice, I should be afraid of him. She had warned me before, but then things went their way. Konya was getting closer, which only increased my nervousness, especially since he didn't seem to have any bad intentions towards me.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, hoping it would stop him even for a second and give my heart a moment to calm down.
"Well, I left the house before my father today, I forgot my keys, so I can't go home for now. I thought I'd see if maybe you weren't sitting here too." His gaze wandered to the table, and for a brief moment, a sad expression appeared on his face. "So you've already been initiated," he sighed heavily, showing me his keychain and sat on the windowsill of the window I had been looking out of earlier.
I was afraid to turn my back on him but I didn't dare to look him in the eye. Although I fought with curiosity because I did not have time to look at the sign that would indicate that he was Her son. Konya sensed my interest and my eyes kept escaping to him. He bent down, hands on the windowsill, for a moment I thought he was going to fall, and involuntarily I reached out my hand to keep him from it.
So I froze with my hand in the air, almost touching his shoulder, staring into his dark brown eyes. Just like the first time, I saw Alice's pupils, I couldn't look away. It was just like she said, two crossed blades, but I couldn't agree with the statement that there was nothing more but evil lurking in that look. I saw so much more in him, I couldn't identify it yet.
"Then you're done with the herbs," he said, stepping away.
"Yes!" I was glad we could change the subject and get out of this awkward situation. "Nobody's going to make me drink that shit again."
"I get chills just remembering it," Konya muttered, shuddering.
"Do you have to go through this too?" I was surprised, genuinely intrigued.
"It's one of the few things we have in common."
There was silence, Konya concentrated on looking out the window, and I pretended to go back to my interrupted work. I grabbed the pad with the unfinished drawing and the pencil, but I couldn't bring myself to put the tool back on the paper.
"Konya, what exactly do you want?" I finally asked.
"You can call me by my name," he replied and looked at me, waiting for me to do so.
I hesitated for a moment, but I didn't think it was a bad thing since he asked for it himself. Anyway, we weren't going to suddenly become friends, although his coming here to find me was suspicious, to say the least.
"Tatsuo..." I replied uncertainly, which caused a smile on Konya's face that squeezed my heart. There was so much pain and happiness in that tiny gesture. "Alice told me what happened between you two."
"That's the point," he laughed. "I couldn't help myself, she's got so much of the stereotypical Cupid, but she's not without fault either. As soon as she recognized me, she put on a fighting face." He tried to play it off, which made me giggle and laugh. "It's a natural reaction to each other's company. You don't have to worry, I won't hurt you."
He looked disappointed that he had to say it at all, and started fiddling with his phone, implying that he didn't want to talk. I watched him for a moment and wondered why he didn't react to my presence the way he did to Alice, why he had helped us before. That's because I was far from the iconic image of Eros' child, or maybe because I wasn't fully Cupid, as he liked to call us, then.
I figured that as long as he didn't pose a real threat, I shouldn't worry about it. I went back to work, assuming the surrounding silence would be insanely uncomfortable and full of unsettling anticipation of an attack from him. However, I was surprised that after a long time, I did not feel fear, but relative peace. After an hour, I could tell that I was quite comfortable, even when he glanced at my hands from time to time, which I didn't like very much.
How often did I turn off certain areas of my brain while drawing, giving myself almost entirely to work? I stretched and finally looked at the drawing after a long time, cursing silently in my mind. The young man looked nothing like himself from the description Alice had sent me, only Konya. The sight horrified me, and I quickly tried to hide both my nervousness, embarrassment and the evidence. Tatsuo looked at me and chuckled under his breath. I glared at him angrily as he started to head towards the exit.
"I'm sorry I called you pathetic back then." He stopped with his hand ready to open the door. "If I had known you were going through this, maybe I would have been more gentle."
I was surprised but nodded that I accepted the apology. I started packing my things, the atmosphere that prevailed here was unbearable for me.
"You know you should hate me, right Kiyoshi?"
"Why should I hate someone just because one of their parents is who they are," I muttered, hanging up my apron. "I'm going out for ice cream, you can join as long as it’s on you."